Skip to Main Content

Twenty years ago, Biogen employees realized that the residents of East Cambridge — where Biogen and many other biotech companies are located — knew little about the type of life-changing innovation taking place in those buildings. That realization led to the creation of the Biogen Community Lab, the first modern corporate lab to provide free science education programming for middle- and high-school students.

Now the Community Lab is celebrating 20 years of making impact. Since its inception, the program has focused on serving students from underrepresented communities. The 2022 class includes 40% low-income students and 70% from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM. All told, Biogen’s Community Lab has served more than 61,000 students in 25 countries.

Numbers alone cannot fully convey this program’s far-reaching impact. Alex Cameron, Head of the Global Community Lab, says it’s the students and their stories that stick with her. “It’s wonderful to see those kids come back and say, ‘I’m going to study science because I had this experience.’ We want to focus on students who don’t realize that they can be scientists, who don’t realize they can have careers in science and show them that they can.”

Juan Rafael Lenger-Caballero participated in the Community Lab summer program in 2020. The summer program, co-administered with Lemelson-MIT, fostered his desire to help others through engineering. Juan Rafael’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when Juan Rafael was a child. His mother, Maria Cristina Caballero, wanted her son to have a creative outlet that channeled his emotions toward something positive. “I wanted him to learn about the possibilities, not only about the limitations that we all have and the realities of having a complex illness such as Parkinson’s. I wanted him to see that there are many other things to learn and that, through learning, he can help other people in the future.”

For Juan Rafael, the Community Lab and Biogen’s deep commitment to neuroscience meant that he learned more about Parkinson’s — connecting the science and biology to his own experiences. During the program, he began sketching a prototype for a motorized silicone glove to help his father increase mobility in his hand. Now, he is exploring other ways to help those living with mobility challenges. See Juan Rafael tell his story here.

Juan Rafael is only one of the students that the program has inspired. Through the years, while the lab has grown and adapted, the purpose has stayed the same: show students what’s possible. Kate Dawson, M.D., Head of Therapeutics Development Unit at Biogen and Chair of the Biogen Foundation, says, “Since its inception, the Community Lab has been a place where students can find inspiration and create new possibilities. Looking back, I’m proud to see all those who have grown because of this program. For students curious to learn, I’m excited to provide an opportunity to spark their love of science and better realize their full potential.”

The Community Lab’s success proves that exposing students to biotech opens up a world of possibilities. Learn about Community Lab 2.0 and what’s next for the program.